HTC One mini 2 review: is it still worth it?


WhistleOut
20 March 2015

The One Mini 2 came out in May 2014 as the pint-sized version of the HTC One (M8). It features the same stunning design as its bigger sibling, as well as other features like the Sense user interface (UI) and fantastic BoomSound speakers.

It’s an affordable, compact alternative for the Android lover, but does it still hold up to the test in early 2015? Actually, it does surprisingly well.

Design

The One Mini 2 sports a very familiar design. It’s almost identical to the larger One (M8), which is a very good thing. There’s no depth sensor above the rear camera (also a good thing) and the size differences is immediately apparent, but at a distance you’d be forgiven for mistaking one for the other. This by itself makes the One Mini 2 by far the best-built, most elegantly designed smartphone in its price and size divisions.

There are a couple of flaws. The top-mounted lock button feels like a relic in today’s side-oriented world. This is not nit-picking. When you have to press a button upwards of a dozen times a day, you want it to be in a comfortable location. Especially on a phone with as little grip as this one.

Thanks to the immaculately buffed brushed metal surface, the One Mini 2, like the One (M8), is almost entirely without friction. It’s hard to hold on to and don’t even think about kicking those feet up on to a table, lest it slide smoothly out of your pocket and down in to the seat without a hint of resistance.

It’s not as big a problem with the Mini 2 as it was with the bigger One (M8). The smaller size makes it easier to hang on to and adding a case makes less of an impact on your pocket, but it’s still a factor well worth your consideration.

User experience

HTC’s approach to user interfaces is one of minimalism. Admittedly, Blinkfeed hardly fits in to this scheme, but if a whole home screen dedicated to a personalized news feed isn’t your thing, you can easily remove it.

The rest of the UI is relaxing and, thanks to its lack of bloatware, generally fast and smooth even on the less-powerful quad-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB RAM. There are occasional lag spikes, which can be frustrating, but these tend to be few and far between.

The 4.5 inch 720p display does well, delivering the same 326 pixels per inch (ppi) of an iPhone Retina Display. Colors are good, whites are true and brightness is good, although not stellar. Viewing in direct sunlight on a summer’s day can be problematic, but only if it’s a real scorcher.

Finally, there are the BoomSound speakers. These aren't as loud as those on the flagship One, but they're about as good as those on the original One (M7). They're definitely still louder and boast better quality than any other handset on the market.

A good set of speakers is something you may not be looking for in a phone but trust us: once you've experienced it it's difficult to go back from.

Camera

For a 5MP camera on a mid-range phone the One mini 2 did ok. If it had debuted in 2013 or 2012 then its pics may have turned heads, but as things are colors are a bit dull, grainy and often suffer from HTC's largest camera problem: light bleeding.

Manually focusing the image can usually get around this, last issue, but your shots can still turn out a little washed out. Take this shot from a scorching hot sunny day in fair Melbourne:

Surprisingly, low-light shots are handled a little better. It's no iPhone 6 Plus, but most phones in this category struggle to achieve any kind of distinction, let alone a passably identifiable image, in a dark cocktail lounge. Just make sure your target is sitting still.

Unfortunately for HTC, near-enough is no longer good enough. The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact – a similarly priced and sized phone from 2014 – rocks a great 20.7MP camera that blows the One mini 2’s out of the water for both high and low light shots.

Battery life

Charge lasted a solid day. No more, no less. Obviously if you really push things you can burn yourself out before dinner, but for medium-to-heavy use, avoiding any power-hungry games, you’ll make it to bed time easily.

Verdict

Even so long after its release, the One mini 2 is a great little phone. It’s impressive to see a mid-ranger hold up for around 10 months in a market that moves this quickly.

Still, age is no virtue. The One mini 2 may still be a great phone and, if you grabbed yourself one around its release date, you can rest assured that it was money well spent. However, for our money we’d take the Xperia Z3 Compact. It was released after the One mini 2 and sports some serious improvements. It’s faster, smoother, waterproof and rocks that 20.7MP camera.

All is not lost. It’s almost unfair to review a phone 10 months post-debut, but if anything the One mini 2 has given us great hope for HTC’s next offerings. If the One (M9) and whatever its mini variant is called (One mini 3?) can age this gracefully, then they’re going to be a pair of solid investments.


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